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IRS gets $1.3 million for Darryl Strawberry’s Mets annuity

Super Bowl XLIX is just 10 days away. On top of the normal National Football Championship game hoopla, we've also got Deflategate.

The Internal Revenue Service, however, has had baseball on its mind.

Darryl_Strawberry_2008-09-28The reason? This week it pocketed a cool $1.3 million to cover former Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry's tax debts.

Even cooler was how the IRS got the money.

The agency auctioned off the Major League Baseball star's annuity that he received in connected with a 1985 contract extension with New York's less storied baseball club.

Success at the ball park, troubles off: Almost 30 years ago when Strawberry's career appeared to have no bounds (per Richard Sandomir of the New York Times), Strawberry signed a contract extension with the Mets in which part of the estimated $7 million deal was deferred. He would get this money in monthly payments over 30 years after he quit playing.

While Strawberry was in uniform, he led a charmed life. During his 17-year career, Strawberry helped lead the Mets to a World Series championship in 1986 and the New York Yankees to three World Series championships in 1996, 1998 and 1999. He  was voted to the All-Star Game eight straight times (1984–1991).

But off the baseball diamond, things didn't work out so well. Substance abuse, other legal troubles, marital problems and cancer contributed to Strawberry's eventual baseball and personal downfalls.

He also ran afoul of the IRS, owing tax debts incurred in 1989, 1990, 2003 and 2004. The AP details Strawberry's overdue tax tally:

   "The federal government sued Strawberry in 2007, seeking to collect what then was nearly $500,000 in unpaid taxes from the eight-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion.

   Strawberry was indicted in 1994 on federal tax evasion charges linked to income from autographs and memorabilia. He pleaded guilty the following year and was sentenced to six months home confinement and ordered to repay $350,000 in taxes.

   In 2008, he agreed to pay the IRS more than $430,000 in back taxes, penalties and interests for tax years 1989 and 1990."

Unique tax settlement: In an effort to finally settle those tax bills, the IRS put Strawberry's Mets annuity on the auction block.

"The auction of a MLB deferred compensation agreement by the IRS may be a unique event," Michael Devine, a spokesman for the IRS in St. Louis, told the New York Times.

It also turned out to be a successful event.

The IRS set a $550,000 minimum bid for the right to receive the annuity's remaining $1.28 million in payments.

The tax collector more than doubled that, essentially getting full price for the financial instrument's value.

The final step will be approval of the auction transaction by the Florida judge who ordered the annuity's sale.

Once that happens, the annuity's new owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, will get a monthly check from the Mets for $8,891.82 over the next 18-plus years.

Photo of Darryl Strawberry by Kanesue/Wikimedia
at Goodbye to Shea Stadium ceremony (9-28-2008)

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